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The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist by…

The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist (2009)

by Matt Baglio

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This book is what the Anthony Hopkins movie by the same title is based on. Hopkins has done some benefit charity work for the Catholic Church in the past, although he isn’t Catholic. The movie The Rite focused on the priest overcoming his fear and bewilderment over paranormal phenomena than battling Satan per se, but I thought it was interesting if inaccurate. In the book now-married journalist Baglio followed a priest from a San Jose, California parish as he goes to Rome to take classes to familiarize himself with the role as the bishop’s official exorcist. The Church’s canon law stipulates that only those priests explicitly named by the bishop can perform exorcisms on ‘the possessed.’
Although most of the book protests an aversion to seeing the devil as ubiquitous and afflicted people everywhere, that is pretty close to where Baglio ends up the book. A remarkably fast read (showing talent as a researcher and stylist for a 280pp work). Although by the conclusion this is altered to be many people searching out a priest for exorcism due to actual possession, to most people needing a steady faith life to counter-balance the forces of evil in the world that undermine a person’s coping with tragedy in life. This is not a positive view of any healing ministry in the church or even spirituality in general, and is a major flaw in the author’s outlook. The elemental catholic understanding is that Christ in his resurrection gives his own spirit to all who have faith and that this faith is strong enough to stand against any power of evil. A life of frequent practice in the Christian faith will shield a person from any worry about power from anything outside of God. The Rite does say correctly that most people with actual problems have them due to availing themselves to occult powers of New Age thinking or mediums of various kinds. This book lacks understanding when Baglio says that saints have been possessed and that God willed for them to be possessed (chapter five). That is definitely not true. No saints were ever possessed and it is never God’s will for anyone to be separated in any way from Him. Language misunderstanding seems to be going on here. Saints have been tested by hardship of spiritual & physical trials but that is not to be possessed. Basic things like that undermine the book from being taken seriously, however well intentioned.
The church has always acknowledged the existence of evil spirits influencing people toward bad decisions which cause harm to self and others [first miracle in Mark’s Gospel is a demonic healing]. For this reason Jesus asked the church forevermore to make available penance and the Eucharist. The book does come to those same conclusions after a consistent practice of Roman Catholicism shows evidence of growth. I would not recommend this book to Catholics, as it seems to give undue attention to those who claim to be possessed. Many people can claim many things and it takes time and consideration to sort out what the situation actually is.
In the Catholic Church, the priest sees the person as a believer who is suffering and needs to be returned to a safe relationship with Jesus by prayer (& sacraments of Eucharist and Penance). It is never an all out battle between the priest and the oppressing demon with the afflicted person considered as collateral damage. There are still current stories of that nature in the news with the “exorcists” being charged with felony crimes.
  sacredheart25 | Nov 15, 2015 |
This was a very interesting perspective. There were sections that I didn't want to put the book down. This would be a good companion to anyone who has read the exorcist. It is not necessarily a book that will scare but rather educate you regardless if you are a practicing Catholic or not. ( )
  bibliophile_pgh | May 10, 2014 |
I didn't like this very much. Very boring. ( )
  wallerdc | Mar 26, 2014 |
I was pleasantly surprised by how sensible and informative this book is. I read it because I saw the movie adaptation, but it's really nothing like it. If you're looking for something sensationalized, with lots of exorcism scenes full of writhing and grunting, this book will probably disappoint you. It's written by a journalist, not a novelist, and it shows. It's committed to portraying the reality of the modern exorcist and investigating the theology behind possessions and the exorcism ritual. It also spends some time with psychologists and addresses how priests differentiate between mental illness and actual demonic oppression. There are some exorcism scenes -- Father Gary Thomas observed over 80 exorcisms while he was studying in Rome and apprenticed to Father Carmine. But the priest is never possessed; no one's head spins around; and there's no pregnant lady with a demon baby. The priests never even experience a crisis of faith; rather, they both affirm that observing clear paranormal, demonic activity actually strengthens their belief.

The writing isn't fantastic, but it's serviceable. And it has a good bibliography for further reading on the subject. ( )
  edenic | Feb 6, 2012 |
The true story following Father Gary Thomas as he trains to become an exorcist.

Not much to say really, was quite bored a lot of the time as the book went into all the different theologies surround the catholic faith etc.

Some nice moments but far too repetitive. ( )
  Bridgey | Aug 11, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385522711, Paperback)

In 2007, the Vatican’s chief exorcist revealed an initiative to install an exorcist in every diocese worldwide.  Three days later, the Vatican denied the story.
Father Gary Thomas was working as a parish priest in California when church leaders asked him to travel to Rome for training in the rite of exorcism. In Rome, as an apprentice to a veteran Italian exorcist, his eyes were opened to a darker side of the Catholic faith he had never known, and he came to see the battle between good and evil as never before. Journalist Matt Baglio had full access to Father Gary over the course of his training, and the astonishing story he found reveals that the phenomena of possession, demons, the Devil, and exorcism are not merely a remnant of the archaic past, but remain a fearsome power in many people’s lives even today.  The inspiration for the movie The Rite, starring Anthony Hopkins, this book provides a uniquely intimate glimpse into the chilling world of a real-life Roman Catholic exorcist.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:30 -0400)

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In The Rite, journalist Matt Baglio uses the astonishing story of one American priest's training as an exorcist to reveal that the phenomena of possession, demons, the Devil, and exorcism are not merely a remnant of the archaic past, but remain a fearsome power in many people's lives even today.--Publisher description.… (more)

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